Penguins GM Ron Hextall talks about his club’s offseason and their plans for the upcoming season, plus the latest on Jason Demers, Bo Byram, Ryan Donato and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
POST-GAZETTE.COM: In an interview with Mike DeFabo, Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ron Hextall said “there wasn’t a feeling around here” that big changes were needed during this offseason. “I think the part you can’t lose sight of is we did win the division last year,” he said.
Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ron Hextall (NHL.com).
Hextall doubts team captain Sidney Crosby will be sidelined long-term by his recent wrist surgery. However, he conceded Evgeni Malkin (knee surgery) could start the season on long-term injury reserve. Hextall also said the departures of Jared McCann and Brandon Tanev were cost-cutting measures to remain under the salary cap. He also
Turning to the UFA status of Malkin, Kris Letang and Bryan Rust, Hextall remains hopeful of reaching an agreement with the trio that’s fair for both sides. He’s also looking for better performances from defenseman Marcus Pettersson and John Marino and winger Jason Zucker.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Penguins failed to advance past the first round in two of the last three postseasons and didn’t get past the qualifying round during last year’s expanded playoff format. Questionable goaltending and an aging roster core were contributing factors behind those playoff disappointments.
Hextall’s limited cap space prevented him from making any significant additions to his roster this summer. The outcome of this season could determine if Malkin, Letang and Rust still fit into the Penguins’ long-term plans.
PHNX: Craig Morgan reports former Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jason Demers is still waiting to find an NHL team to play with. “There’s hard days and there’s good days,” he said. “You’ve just got to focus on keeping yourself ready and making sure you don’t look too far ahead or you can make yourself go crazy, sitting in the house.” The 33-year-old Demers is training in Arizona.
COLORADO HOCKEY NOW: Avalanche defenseman Bo Byram is hoping for a healthier season after being limited to just 19 games in 2020-21 by concussion symptoms and testing positive for COVID-19.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Byram could see more playing time and responsibilities this season following the offseason departures of Ryan Graves and Patrik Nemeth.
CAP FRIENDLY: reports Ryan Donato signed a one-year, $750K contract with the Seattle Kraken.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Oilers prospect Dylan Holloway might not be on the ice for the club’s rookie training camp. He underwent offseason surgery to repair a broken thumb suffered last season playing for the University of Wisconsin but it may not be fully healed.
Anders Lee looks forward to returning from a knee injury, Dylan Cozens hopes to take on a larger role with the Sabres, the Blues unveil their 2022 Winter Classic jersey, and more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
NEWSDAY: New York Islanders captain Anders Lee is excited about returning to action after being sidelined in March by a torn ACL in his right knee. He still needs medical clearance before rejoining his teammates when training camp opens on Sep. 22.
New York Islanders captain Anders Lee (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Lee will likely get that clearance when he undergoes his training camp medical. The Islanders missed his presence on their top line down the stretch last season and in the 2021 playoffs.
WGR 550: Buffalo Sabres sophomore center Dylan Cozens believes his club is going to surprise people this season, pointing out the club’s improvement during the second half of last season. The 20-year-old Cozens also believes he can take on a leadership role. “I’ve always seen myself as a leader,” he said. ” I want to lead by example and be a guy that guys can look to if they need anything or look to to inspire them.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Sabres are heading into another rebuild. Cozens could play a key role in that process, especially if current captain Jack Eichel gets traded as anticipated later this season.
NBC SPORTS: The St. Louis Blues unveiled their jerseys for the 2022 Winter Classic against the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 1, 2022, at Target Field in Minneapolis. The jersey is described as offering “a modern spin on an original worn in 1967”, the year the Blues joined the NHL.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It looks pretty good too. I’ve always been a fan of the Blues’ jersey from their early years in the NHL.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Marcus Sorensen confirmed he’s returning to Sweden after five seasons with the San Jose Sharks. The 29-year-old left winger tallied 31 goals and 64 points in 226 NHL games. He’ll be suiting up this season with the SHL’s Djugardens IF.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins recently hired Charles Grant and Kain Tisi as goaltending development coaches. They replace Andy Chiodo, who was promoted to goalie coach at the NHL level.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: The Blackhawks filed amended motions on Friday to dismiss both negligence lawsuits related to former team video coach Bradley Aldrich, who allegedly sexually assaulted a Blackhawks player in 2010.
SPORTSNET: In a recent roundup of notable hockey news, Elliotte Friedman reports the Buffalo Sabres had an “introductory meeting” with Jack Eichel’s new representatives. Thus far, however, no indication of any resolution in the 24-year-old center’s impasse with the team. Friedman believes the club revisited discussions with interested teams to see where they stand.
Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (NHL Images).
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The issues probably remain the same for those clubs. They’re unlikely to pay the Sabres’ hefty asking price for a talented but expensive player who’s yet to undergo surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck.
The Ottawa Senators and Brady Tkachuk’s representatives are still working on a long-term deal believed comparable to teammate Thomas Chabot’s eight-year, $8 million per season contract. Both sides hope to have a deal in place before training camp opens later this month.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Playing time was apparently the issue for Mikheyev. He should get much more of that this season, providing him a terrific opportunity to prove his worth to the Leafs.
Friedman rejected rumors suggesting the Arizona Coyotes could trade defenseman Jakob Chychrun. However, he thinks veteran winger Phil Kessel could draw a lot of attention if he has a hot start to this season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: As PHNX Sports’ Craig Morgan observed, the Coyotes see the 23-year-old Chychrun as a player they can build around. Kessel, on the other hand, becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer and no longer has a future in Arizona. While the Coyotes only carry $6.8 million of his $8 million AAV, it could still be difficult to find takers for that cap hit.
A couple of teams are awaiting Tyler Bozak’s decision on where he’ll play this season. Friedman wonders if the 35-year-old center might land in Pittsburgh with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the shelf to start the season.
TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan reports Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas scuttled rumors linking his club to New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban. “I can definitively say that we have not thought a single thing about any player that is going to be a free agent a year from now,” said Dubas.
Koshan also reports Dubas did give some thought to trading one of his core players during the offseason. However, it didn’t sound like much serious thought was given to that idea.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Subban’s $9 million annual average value and the decline in his performance in recent years make him difficult to move right now.
I don’t doubt Dubas and the Leafs’ brain trust gave some thought to shake up their core but it was apparent during their season-ending press conference that they want to keep that group intact for this season. That could change next summer, however, if the Leafs fail again to advance past the opening round of the playoffs. Dubas might not even be part of that decision as another early postseason exit could cost him his job.
NHL players will participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics, the Senators sign Drake Batherson, the Red Wings ink Filip Hronek to a new deal, and more in today’s morning coffee headlines.
NHL.COM: The league has reached an agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) to take part in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. NHL players will be returning to the Olympics for the first time since the Sochi Games in 2014. The league will break from Feb. 3-22 to allow for the 2022 All-Star Game in Las Vegas followed by the Olympics.
NHL players will take part in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics (NHL.com).
The agreement also provides the league and the NHL Players Association the option for a possible later decision to withdraw from the Beijing Games in the event COVID-19 conditions render participation to be impractical or unsafe.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some hockey fans and pundits believe the NHL should boycott the Beijing Games for a variety of reasons. That decision, however, isn’t up to the league.
The players wanted Olympic participation as part of the extension to the CBA. As a result, the league had to work with the PA, IIHF and the International Olympic Committee to reach an agreement on the Beijing Games. It appears the only thing that will prevent it will be the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
OTTAWA SUN: The Senators winger Drake Batherson to a six-year, $29.85 million contract. The 23-year-old winger’s annual average value is $4.975 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Batherson enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2020-21 after two short seasons with the Senators, tallying 17 goals and 34 points in 56 games. The report noted that the versatile two-way forward enjoyed terrific chemistry on a line with Brady Tkachuk and Josh Norris. That should continue in the coming years as the rebuilding Senators rise in the standings. Batherson’s new contract could also be a cost-effective deal if he continues to improve as management believes he will.
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings signed Filip Hronek to a three-year, $13.2 million contract. That’s a $4.4 million annual average cap hit for the 23-year-old defenseman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: An affordable new deal for Hronek, who developed into the Red Wings’ best blueliner over the past two seasons. He’ll likely be joined on their top pairing by Nick Leddy, who was acquired earlier this summer from the New York Islanders.
STLTODAY.COM: After signing an eight-year contract extension, Colton Parayko assured nervous Blues fans that he’s fully recovered from the back injury that hampered him last season. The 28-year-old defenseman missed 21 games but said he required minimal offseason treatment, relying instead on rest and building up the muscles around it.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins invited forward Brian Boyle and defenseman Matt Bartkowski to training camp on professional tryout offers. Boyle is attempting a comeback after sitting out last season while Bartkowski spent all but one game last season with the Minnesota Wild’s AHL affiliate in Iowa.
NBC SPORTS BAY AREA: Rocky Thompson has stepped down as an associate coach with the San Jose Sharks. Medical reasons prevent him from taking the COVID-19 vaccine, making it difficult for him to perform his duties under the league’s COVID protocols for the coming season.
USA HOCKEY: John Hynes, David Quinn, Todd Reirden and Ryan Miller will serve as assistant coaches to head coach Mike Sullivan for the 2022 USA Men’s Olympic hockey team.
The league introduces new COVID-19 protocols for the coming season, the Coyotes submit a bid to build a new arena & the Flyers inking Joel Farabee to a long-term deal headline several of Thursday’s contract signings. Details & more in today’s NHL morning coffee headlines.
SPORTSNET: Elliotte Friedman reported last night the NHL and NHL Players Association finalized COVID-19 protocols for the coming 2021-22 season. Topping the list is a mechanism allowing teams to suspend unvaccinated players unable to participate in club activities, including when a player cannot travel due to local/state/provincial/federal regulations “upon return.” The player will forfeit the equivalent of one day’s pay for each day they’re unable to participate.
Exceptions include medical reasons, religious beliefs or quarantine due to being a high-risk close contact. If a full vaccinated player is confirmed with a positive test his condition will be treated as a hockey-related injury. Unvaccinated players will also face strict rules limiting social contact while on the road.
Players wishing to opt-out of this season can do so by Oct. 1. Their teams will have 30 days to determine if their contract will be rolled over to next season or this season removed from their agreement. They won’t be allowed to play in another league or the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: This is a brief version of Friedman’s report. I recommend following the link for the full story. Needless to say, these rules will be used to strongly encourage unvaccinated players to get their necessary COVID shots if they want to play in the NHL this season. Recent reports indicate 85 percent of NHL players are vaccinated. In other COVID-19 news…
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton confirmed on social media he contracted the coronavirus while on his honeymoon. It’s unknown if he was vaccinated at the time. If this had happened a month from now when the new protocols are in place he likely would’ve been suspended.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Blackhawks fans will require proof of vaccination to attend games this season at the United Center.
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL: The Vegas Golden Knights announced their fans won’t need to provide proof of vaccination to attend games at T-Mobile Arena this season. They intend to maintain compliance with state and local health regulations, as well as those of the NHL and the CDC.
ARIZONA SPORTS: The Coyotes submitted a bid to build a new arena in Tempe, located in metropolitan Phoenix. The city indicated the evaluation process would take months before there will be a vote to approve or reject the project.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Coyotes could still be seeking a temporary home if the city of Glendale maintains its decision to end its lease agreement with the club by the end of this season. If the Tempa arena deal is approved, it could take another two or three years before the building is ready for use.
NBC SPORTS PHILADELPHIA: The Flyers signed Joel Farabee to a six-year, $30 million contract extension. The 21-year-old winger lead the club with 20 goals last season and finished with 38 points in 55 games.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Farabee’s new annual average value is $5 million. That’s a significant raise over the $925K of his current deal, which expires at the end of this season. It’s also a big vote of confidence in the young winger, who managed eight goals and 21 points during his NHL debut in 2019-20. It could prove worthwhile if he builds on the promise of his sophomore campaign.
WGR 550: The Buffalo Sabres inked defenseman Henri Jokiharju and forward Casey Mittelstadt to three-year, $7.5 million contracts. Each will earn an annual cap hit of $2.5 million.
THE DETROIT NEWS: The Red Wings signed former Anaheim Ducks forward Carter Rowney to a one-year contract.
TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins signed goaltender Louis Domingue to a one-year, two-way contract.
THE NEWS & OBSERVER: The Carolina Hurricanes hired former defenseman Tim Gleason as an assistant coach.
MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Ontario Hockey League (OHL) suspended Canadiens prospect Logan Mailloux indefinitely after he secretly photographed an 18-year-old woman engaged in a sexual act with him while playing in Sweden last year and shared the photo and her identity with his SK Lejon teammates. Swedish police charged him with defamation and offensive photography and fined him $1, 650 USD.
Mailloux will have an opportunity to apply for reinstatement on Jan. 1, 2022.
Is There a “Right Way” To Retire NHL Jersey Numbers?
The New York Rangers’ plan to retire Henrik Lundqvist’s number prompted the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Mark Madden to suggest some teams conduct that practice too frequently.
While taking note of Lundqvist’s 15 seasons with the Rangers, Madden pointed out he never won a Stanley Cup, appeared in just one Cup final and won the Vezina only once. He suggested no one would know who Lundqvist was if he played in Buffalo but he gets his number retired because he played for the big-market Rangers.
Madden also pointed out the Rangers, who’ve won just one championship since 1940, retired eight numbers honoring 10 players but only three won the Stanley Cup. He felt that “when glory isn’t earned, it’s good PR to bestow it.”
That’s a blithe dismissal of Lundqvist’s accomplishments and of his fellow Ranger greats who lack a Stanley Cup on their resumes.
Lundqvist had a career worthy of the Hockey Hall of Fame and could become a first-ballot inductee. He was the Rangers’ franchise player throughout most of his NHL career. He’s their all-time leader in games played for goalies (887), save percentage (.918), shutouts (64) and wins (459), ranking sixth all-time in that category among NHL goalies.
Henrik Lundqvist’s jersey number (30) will join those of other Rangers greats (NHL.com).
Rod Gilbert, who recently passed away at age 80, is another Ranger great who never won the Stanley Cup. He was their first player to have his number retired following 18 seasons from 1960-61 to 1977-78. He still holds the franchise record with 406 career goals and 1,021 points and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982.
Jean Ratelle played over 14 seasons with the Rangers, most of those as Gilbert’s linemate. He’s second among their all-time scoring leaders with 336 goals and third with 481 assists and 817 points. He won the Pearson Award (now the Ted Lindsey Award) in 1971-72, the Masterton Trophy in 1971 and the first of his four Lady Byng Memorial Trophies as a Ranger. He went into the Hall of Fame in 1985.
Harry Howell was a Ranger for 17 of his 21 NHL seasons, holding the club record with 1,160 games. He was the last player to win the Norris Trophy as the top defenseman before the league expanded from six to 12 teams in 1967. Howell was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1979.
Madden also took swipes at teams with “legit history” like the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs who “don’t necessarily get it right” when retiring numbers.
The Canadiens have retired 15 numbers honoring 18 players. Madden acknowledged it’s hard to argue against their choices but felt that’s a bad thing and “stupid” because it leaves too many of their current players skating with numbers in the 40s through the 90s, making them look like a roller-hockey team.
So what are the Canadiens supposed to do? Not honor the plethora of great players who played leading roles in their rich history, including their league-leading 24 Stanley Cup titles? It’s also worth noting the Canadiens aren’t the only team with current players sporting high jersey numbers and they certainly don’t look embarrassing doing so. Some even include such Hall-of-Famers as Wayne Gretzky (99), Eric Lindros (88) and Mario Lemieux (66).
Turning to the Leafs, Madden observed five of their 19 players to have their numbers retired (Mats Sundin, Darryl Sittler, Borje Salming, Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark) played during their Cup-less years since 1967.
As with Lundqvist, Gilbert, Ratelle and Howell with the Rangers, Sundin, Sittler, Salming and Gilmour are among the Leafs’ all-time greats and Hall-of-Fame inductees. The lack of a Stanley Cup on their resumes as Leafs (Gilmour won his with the Calgary Flames) shouldn’t be held against them having their jersey numbers retired.
I do agree with Madden over the retirement of Clark’s number despite being one of my favorite Leafs. He was often the only good thing during the dark ages of the Harold Ballard era and a long-time fan favorite. Retirement of his number seemed mostly for sentimental reasons but that’s the Leafs’ prerogative and their fans don’t have an issue with it.
Madden believes the Pittsburgh Penguins “do it right” when retiring numbers. Only Mario Lemieux and Michel Briere received that honor from the Penguins. Sidney Crosby, Jaromir Jagr and Evgeni Malkin are certain to enjoy the same accolade once their Hall of Fame-worthy playing careers have ended
By the way, Lemieux, Crosby and Jagr all wore numbers in the 40 through 90 range without making their team look like a roller-hockey team.
The argument can be made the Penguins only have a tiny fraction of retired or soon-to-be-retired numbers because they represent two bright periods (1990 to 1997, 2008 to 2016) in the Penguins’ 55-year history. Many of the years leading up to the Lemieux-Jagr era were mostly mediocre. Lemieux’s final seasons were spent with a floundering club on the brink of relocation before a new arena save them during the Crosby-Malkin era.
Using Madden’s logic, we can make the case against the retirement of Briere’s number. That honored was bestowed when the young forward was killed in a car accident in 1970. It was a tragic end to a promising NHL career, but was it really worth retiring his number?
There’s really no “right way” to honor former or fallen players. Those who enjoyed Hall of Fame careers deserve that accolade regardless of whether they won the Stanley Cup. There’s also nothing wrong with retiring the number of a long-time fan favorite or remembering a player full of promise whose career was sadly cut short.